Recently, an Omani lady I know told me that she travels to Dubai on most weekends and holidays because there isn’t much to do here and there’s so much more variety there. There are quite a number of local attractions in Muscat, but it’s probable that these may be too-familiar sights with Omanis and thus have a greater appeal mainly to tourists and expats. We’ve been looking up things to do for the weekends but many activities, while great for a younger crowd or couple, aren’t particularly suitable for families especially those with young children. So, as a start to exploring the city, we’ve been going to different restaurants at the end of each week to sample various local and international cuisines.
Friday Brunch seems to be rather popular in Oman, it’s probably the same across the Middle East as well. And Friday marks the beginning of the weekend here, so what’s better than having a good meal and spending some time with your family?
We headed to the Grand Hyatt Hotel for their Friday Brunch spread at the Mokha Café for a birthday celebration. There are brunches at numerous restaurants and hotels, but we picked this venue as it was child-friendly. Kids under 12 enjoy a free meal and there were supposed to be kids’ activities which I thought TT might enjoy.
Upon arriving at the hotel, an impressive bronze horse sculpture greeted us at the lobby. Looking past the horse and rider, a beautiful view of green lawns and the beach beckoned from behind floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows. Manicured gardens and clear, blue waters are key features of most of the hotels in Muscat, and they most definitely appeal to me! As we proceeded down the stairs, we got a good preview of the numerous food stations within the restaurant and outside on the terrace.
We were informed that kids had their own food selection at a table at the end of the restaurant. There were about five different dishes including mini-burgers, nuggets, pasta and chicken. TT likes to pick at a variety of food, so I got her some pasta, chicken and potato wedges. Surprisingly, she grabbed the chicken strips and ate three large pieces, and fed herself quite a number of wedges. The waitress also handed her a little goodie bag filled with colouring materials. This kept her busy while we were having our lunch. Just as well, since there was no sign of any kids’ activities. I had envisioned balloons and perhaps face-painting; instead there was a cushion-filled room with a television and game console, and some kiddy chairs and tables with wooden blocks. There were some older kids playing in the room, chasing each other and flinging themselves onto the cushions. TT had to make do with the colouring book and walking around the restaurant. Being so curious, exploring the restaurant and looking around was sufficient to keep her entertained.
Now for the hungry adults to get their lunch. There was a wide variety of food to choose from, which included starters/antipastos, asian, seafood, grilled/roasted meats and fish, and desserts. We did our best to try a bit of everything. While the meats were a little disappointing as they were overdone and tough, the chilled seafood was quite outstanding and the best part of the buffet.
I tried some prawns and mussels, but the freshest seafood there was the raw oysters that lay plump and glistening in their juices. Before I could grab any, the chef manning the station said, “Stop, have these”. On my plate, he carefully placed three oysters he had just shucked, and then proceeded to drizzle vinaigrette on each. They were delicious and the the best thing I had that afternoon. The oysters were succulent – their saltiness balanced with the vinaigrette and without a hint of the overpowering taste of the sea. I even went back for seconds at the end of my meal!
I’d return for the picturesque setting and the oysters, of course! It’s a nice change from our usual no-fuss weekday meals that I rustle up after TT goes to bed. I think we’ll have to give Friday Brunch a shot at the other hotels and find our favourite. And hopefully, there’ll be some extra fun activities for TT!
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